Matagorda, 1949 (WHEC-373)

Feb. 15, 2021

Matagorda, 1949


The Matagorda was named after a bay along the southeastern coast of Texas, separated from the Gulf of Mexico by the Matagorda peninsula.

Radio call sign: NIFV

Builder: Boston Naval Shipyard, Boston, MA 

Commissioned:        16  Dec 1941 (USN); loaned to USCG 7 March 1949
                                     8  Jun  1949 (USCG)

Decommissioned:    15 Oct 1967; transferred to USN 30 Oct 1968; expended as a target


Length:  311’ 7” oa; 300' 0" bp 

Navigation Draft:  12' 5" max 

Beam:  41’ max 

Displacement:  2,496 fl 

Main Engines:  Fairbanks-Morse, direct reversing diesels  

BHP:  6,000 

Performance, Maximum Sustained:         17.1 kts, 9,725 nautical mile range
Performance, Economic:                13.0 kts, 16,600 nautical mile range

Fuel Capacity:  166,430 

Complement:  10 officers, 3 warrants, 136 men 

Electronics:  Radar: SPS-23, SPS-29A

                        Sonar: SQS-1 

Armament:   1 x 5”/38 Mk 30-75; 1 x Mk 52 Mod 3 director; 1 x Mk 26 fire control radar; 4 x Mk 6 Mod 2 DC projectors; 1 x Mk 10 Mod 1 A/S projector;

Class history—The Casco class ships were built as small seaplane tenders by the US Navy. They were designed to operate out of small harbors and atolls and had a shallow draft. The fact that the class was very seaworthy, had good habitability, and long range made them well suited to ocean-station duty.  In fact, an assessment made by the Coast Guard on the suitability of these vessels for Coast Guard service noted:

"The workmanship on the vessel is generally quite superior to that observed on other vessels constructed during the war.  The vessel has ample space for stores, living accommodations, ships, offices and recreational facilities.  The main engine system is excellent. . . .The performance of the vessel in moderate to heavy seas is definitely superior to that of any other cutter.  This vessel can be operated at higher speed without storm damage than other Coast Guard vessels." 

Once they were accepted into Coast Guard service, a number of changes were made in these ships to prepare them for ocean-station duty. A balloon shelter was added aft; there were spaces devoted to oceanographic equipment and a hydrographic winch as well as an oceanographic winch were added. 

See DANFS for naval service.

Ship's history:

The Matagorda was stationed at Boston, MA, from 8 June 1949 to 1954. She was used for law enforcement, ocean station, and search and rescue operations in the Atlantic.  

From 1954 to 15 October 1967, she was stationed at Honolulu, HI, and used for similar duties, in the Pacific, as during her years at Boston. On 26 January 1956, the Matagorda delivered clothing to an orphanage in Japan from Washington Intermediate School in Honolulu. In August 1960, she towed the disabled F/V Wild Goose II. On 12 and 13 January 1965, she stood by the disabled Liberian tanker Saint Helena 1,000 miles northwest of Midway Island. The tanker had sustained hull damage due to heavy seas and was in danger of breaking in two. The Matagorda was relieved by CGC Bering Strait and proceeded to Hawaii, via Midway, in heavy seas. In mid-September of 1965, she escorted the disabled Liberian M/V Londias to Honolulu. On 27 February 1966, she transferred 12,000 gallons of water to the disabled M/V Union Success and towed her until relieved.

The Navy considered taking the Matagorda for target practice upon her decommissioning in 1967. The ship was eventually transferred to the Navy and expended as target 72 miles off Hawaii at 20°08’N, 158°30’W.


Matagorda, Cutter Subject File, USCG Historian's Office

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, Vol. IV (1969), pp. 268-269.

"Listings: AVP's"; compiled and written by LCDR J. P. Smith, USCGR

Robert Scheina, U.S. Coast Guard Cutters & Craft, 1946-1990 (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1990), pp. 10-16.

Ship's Characteristics Card: USCGC Matagorda, 17 April 1967.